Norway's Unrivaled Public Huts
Norway's Unrivaled Public Huts
Norway is home to the largest and best public hut system in the world, a way of life for locals and a novelty for visitors. The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) oversees 460 cabins spanning the country and situated incrementally throughout the National Parks and other areas of great natural beauty. They are a pleasure to stay in and make Norway’s wide-open and unforgiving terrain far more accessible. Rustic in some ways, yet equipped with wood, gas, food, full kitchenware, and as much character as any five-star accommodation.
DNT staffed lodges are open to members and non-members alike, but members pay a discounted rate that covers the annual fee (530 NOK or $95) in a few nights. Access to self-service and no-service cabins requires the DNT master key available only to members. Below is a breakdown of the three categories of huts—staffed lodge, self-service cabin, and no-service cabin—all of which provide duvets and pillows but require a silk liner (sleep sack).
DNT Staffed Lodges
“Lodge” is the correct term for the largest and most developed of the bunch, complete with staff on hand, prepared meals, electricity, and hot showers. They are located in higher use areas and see a decent volume of trekkers each day, but sleeping arrangements are mostly in one and two bunk private rooms (with two and four beds, respectively). One of the highlights is the family style three-course dinner made from local ingredients and with bountiful proportions. Staying in a private room with a three-course dinner, breakfast, and a couple of sandwiches for the road will set you back around 600 NOK ($110). Wine and beer are available at staffed lodges.
DNT Self-Service Cabins
These are smaller cabins without staff or prepared meals but stocked with all the necessary provisions. They do not have electricity or running water—candles are used for light and the cabins are located next to a dependable water supply. Self-service is my favorite category because they are less crowded, more intimate, you cook for yourself, and they are cheaper. Lodging for the night costs 190 NOK ($35), and food roughly 165 NOK ($30) depending on your meals.
The selections in the pantry include a variety of dried and canned foods such as pastas, soups, vegetables, fish, and even reindeer meatballs. You’ll also find cheese and crackers, pancake mix, oatmeal, an assortment of beverages including tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, among other things (no alcohol provided). All told, the food is pretty good and an improvement from most camping meals. Self-service huts are equipped with a full array of kitchen supplies, gas stoves for cooking, and wood for heating.
DNT No-Service Cabins
The smallest and most rustic huts, equipped with the same facilities as self-service cabins but have no food (you must carry in your own food).
Etiquette at the Norewgian Huts
The huts have a code of conduct innate to locals but slightly more challenging for foreigners, especially considering that directions are in Norwegian. The first order of business upon arrival is to write your name in the cabin register and take a provision sheet to record the supplies you use during your stay. Then find a bed for the night, drop your things, and head to the kitchen to familiarize yourself with the workings of the cabin. The systems are similar from hut to hut but the size and layout of each is unique. Our biggest hurdle was deciphering the proper use for each bucket of water in the kitchen (boiled, not boiled, dish water), and without being able to read the labels, we depended on observation and made our best guess.
It doesn’t take much to fit in with the locals—just help keep the group water and wood supplies replete and clean up (frankly, Norwegians are so congenitally polite that they’ll just keep doing their chores, seemingly oblivious to the fact that you aren’t). The huts are in ship-shape condition because the locals keep them that way, so follow the guidelines and clean your personal space and the common areas before you leave. Tidy up the bunks, mop the floors, take out the trash and recycling (to the woodshed), and make sure all kitchenware is clean and put away. Check that the gas regulators are turned off, bring in wood for the next guests, close all doors and windows, and lock the door with the DNT key.